Read Nathaniel's bio and previous columns
August 11, 2008
They Only Look Like
American youth are
behind the maturity curve. Even for those kids whose parents remain
together – which is a crapshoot – they don’t necessarily have real
mentors. The primary influence on American youth these days is American
youth. They grow up surrounded by 20 kids their age and a few teachers,
and it continues like this until they graduate from college, which,
these days, many consider as necessary as high school. So by the time a
person reaches the age of 22, he has little idea how to handle money,
little understanding of complex social and political issues, and as was
my case, no idea how to do the laundry.
They look like adults,
but are they really?
Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney’s little sister, who recently gave birth.
What’s currently garnering a lot of media attention is how quickly her
teenage body recovered from the pregnancy. Many people are well aware
that a woman’s body reassumes its original shape much more easily after
a young pregnancy. But when everyone got a good a look at how quickly it
actually happened, they were shocked.
Said one commentator,
regarding Jamie Lynn, “Just to be clear, I
don't want this post encouraging young readers to consider teenage
pregnancy because your body apparently snaps right back into shape like
nothing ever happened. So, that being said, good God!”
The truth is that, in
all of recorded history, women have been giving birth since their early
teenage years. Having three or four kids before one’s 20th
birthday has been the norm for most of human history. So why should it
surprise us to see young women consistently giving birth to healthy
It’s because we just
can’t wrap our minds around the fact that American bodies seem to mature
about twice as quickly as American minds.
But perhaps worse than
the reality that America consistently churns out 22-year-olds going on
14 is the way we treat them as though they’re the best thing we have
going for us. America worships youth.
Columnist and radio
talk show host Dennis Prager wrote: “Most
adults throughout history have recognized that young people are likely
to be unwise given their minuscule amount of life experience. After all,
most adults, even among baby boomers, believe that they themselves are
wiser today than 10 years ago, let alone than when they were 20 years
And yet, we
tend to regard (or perhaps more accurately, disregard) our elders as out
of touch, and embrace anything and everything coming from the younger
generations. But why? Because young people are better looking?
Prager notes the ’60s
and ’70s, which featured a youth uprising largely responsible for
America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, in writing: “If one believes that the
American attempt to prevent South Vietnam from falling under communist
totalitarian rule was an immoral, imperialist venture, then America's
young people were terrific.”
America’s youth, so
many of whom are taught by ex-hippie professors, are vastly guilty of
simplifying Vietnam and Iraq, considering them international blunders
carried out by power-hungry, war-mongering old people. So many of the
original baby boomers relived the glory days of cursing Vietnam as
America stumbled through the first few years of the Iraq War. I know
because these were my college professors. But really, is it too much to
ask even those who lean toward pacifism or isolationism, even those who
see no good reason to send a soldier to his potential death, to
recognize there were understandable reasons for America’s entry into
Vietnam, just as there were for America’s military dealings with Iraq?
Of course I’m biased. I
am a conservative, and most politically conscious 20-somethings are
liberals. But anyone from any political persuasion can realize there are
a lot of immature adults running rampant, wasting money, wasting time
and voting for really stupid reasons. The longer it takes Americans to
grow up, the greater the percentage of Americans who are extremely
immature. The math does not bode well for our country.
We must demand more
from our children and from ourselves. We need to relearn what it means
to respect our elders. The chances are not good that there will be any
sort of miraculous change in American schools within the next few
decades. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but it does mean we have to
do the best with what we have.
I can’t imagine any of
us would ever want our 16-year-old daughter to get pregnant. But that
shouldn’t stop us from teaching our kids what it means to be a grownup
as soon as possible. Isn’t that a parent’s job?
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column #
Request permission to publish here.